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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JULIAN BLISS SEPTET

A Tribute to Benny Goodman

Signum SIGCD 288

 

 

1. Don't Be That Way/Stompin' at the Savoy
2. Caprice No. 24
3. Up a Lazy River
4. The World is Waiting for the Sunrise
5. Moonglow
6. Oh, Lady Be Good! (Rifftide)
7. Seven Come Eleven
8. Here's That Rainy Day
9. The Sheik of Araby
10. Goodbye
11. Avalon
12. Soft Winds
13. After You've Gone

Julian Bliss - Clarinet
Neil Thornton - Piano
Jim Hart - Vibes
Martin Shaw - Trumpet
Colin Oxley- Guitar
Tim Thornton - Bass
Matt Skelton - Drums

 

The word "tribute" fills me with dread, whether it is used to refer to a tribute band or, as here, to a tribute album. Often it implies little more than an excuse to play some tunes which have already been made famous by other people. But is it worth trying to recreate the magic which these tunes formerly had in other hands?

Julian Bliss is best known as a classical musician and here lies another unsettling aspect of this disc. It is well known that "serious" musicians often find it hard to replicate the very different phrasing customary in jazz. This problem is accentuated by the fact that Julian Bliss is paying tribute to the man who was called the King of Swing. Unfortunately, Julian exhibits little sense of swing in his performances here. Julian has a pleasingly mellow tone but he seldom achieves "swing" and his solos show less invention than those of his sidemen.

The six supporting members of the septet are all experienced jazzmen whose ability to swing often sits uneasily with Bliss's stilted delivery. One gets the impression of a classical musician who has assembled six star players to try and create a jazzy ambience but his inexperience in the jazz world undermines the whole attempt. There is a hint of this inexperience in the choice of some tunes. Was Benny Goodman really famous for playing a Caprice by Paganini or Here's That Rainy Day?

Still, the album is not a complete loss. There are some worthy solos from the backing musicians, especially Martin Shaw, Jim Hart and Colin Oxley. Yet there is still the pervading feeling of a pick-up group rather than a well-integrated ensemble. This is particularly noticeable when the band gets out of sync during the bass solo in The World is Waiting for the Sunrise or in the drum solo on The Sheik of Araby.

This album suggests that it is almost impossible to equal the original recordings by Benny Goodman's various groups. At least hearing these attempts may move listeners to return to those many masterpieces.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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